“2018 was a good year for me,” saloon driver Ross Watters told our Cowdenbeth Racewall scribe Jim Turner.

“I got married to Marnie in November and we both enjoyed the day. However, stock car wise I had a mixed time of it. I managed to qualify for the National Series but had really bad luck during the World Final and the Scottish Championship.”

Ross recalled “The 'World' was at King’s Lynn and it was the first shale race I had done last year. I had a good grid position, I was on row 2, and when the race started there was a pile up in front of me.

"I managed to miss the cars but bounced off the fence and went into the lead. The race was suspended and the field lined up behind me. I made a good re-start and had a good lead but on lap 8 my engine blew up. I must have cracked the water housing when I hit the wall and had been losing fluid. So my 'World' aspirations went up in a cloud of steam!”

He added: “I started the season with the car that I had used in 2017 but had given it a make-over during the winter. However, I have sold the car and am busy getting my Luke Grief built vehicle ready for this year. I hope my new car is as good if not slightly better than the last.”

We soon began to talk about his racing last year in particular the Scottish Championship. Ross recounted: “When I got to the track I had one practice run – basically to scrub in the tyres but the car was going really well.

"I managed to draw fourth place on the grid which put me on the outside of row 2. Holly Glen, who was ahead of me, made a very quick start to lead which and I soon found myself in a good position. There were a few drivers fighting over second and that was letting me pull away. "I had almost the length of a straight over them when the yellow flags appeared – I think it was because Euan Mathieson’s car had stopped on the main straight. "Luckily I had a couple of lapped cars between me and the second placed car and was able to get some distance over Ian McLaughlin when he moved into second. "My lead only lasted for a couple of laps before there was another stoppage. This time I didn’t get away as well as I would have liked and when Ian McLaughlin forced me wide Graeme Shevill also got ahead of me.

"I held on but now had Luke Grief on my back bumper and we were all reasonably close when we started the last lap. Graeme had taken the lead but Ian was now alongside and we were heading for the pit bend. "I knew this was my chance so I lunged at the leaders, hitting Ian’s car which headed for the wall whilst I squeezed Graeme’s car into the wall. I thought I had the gap to go through but then Luke hit the back of my car. "I spun as did Luke whilst Ian scraped along the wall and through to win. I think I finished in eighth crossing the line backwards! I was bitterly disappointed! It was a race that maybe three times I thought I was going to win and each time it was snatched away from me.”

When I asked about the British Championship Ross told me: “I didn’t go to Mildenhall for the British but did go to Taunton for the European. "The qualifying heats were a disaster – I got taken out in two of my three heats and ended up in 23rd position. Taunton is quite a tight track so if you get spun you can lose quite a lot of places but by the same token you can make up a lot of places quickly. "Anyway when the race started I got away well and an early shunt involving the leading cars helped me pick up a lot of places. I was soon through into fifth place. I began to catch the drivers ahead but ran out of time to do so.”

Ross continued: “I was approached by a driver after the ORCi Championship, at Cowdenbeath, who wanted to buy my car and we were able to strike a deal although one condition was that I would use the car until the end of the season.

"The Saloon Association had adopted a similar format to the Formula I and II stock cars to decide which driver would race with the silver roof in 2019 and the format saw all the Champions and the top three in the points contesting rounds at various tracks.

“I was fourth in the points tied with Willie Skoyles Jnr and with Michael Allard having won two championships both of us were given a place in the National Series. I had set my sights on qualifying for the National Series and was pretty happy at qualifying. In Scotland we usually have only 30 points to race for but down south, with the fields that they get they can pick up 40. A twenty car meeting means double points in the final so we are at a slight disadvantage!

“Over the closing weeks of the season I had to do a lot of travelling – I reckon we did around 4,500 miles and missed quite a few of the Racewall meetings which meant that I had no chance of winning the track points championship.

"The first round was at King’s Lynn and was a double points round. Willie scored 72 points, 30 clear of anyone else, but I was taken out in both of my heats. In the final I had moved up to seventh only to have my spring guard come loose so I had to retire.

"The next round was at Taunton where I picked up a third and then a fourth in my heats but then in the final I was spun out. We then had a weekend meeting – the first at Mildenhall on the Saturday and Skegness on the Sunday, however, the Scottish drivers had to take tyres for both a shale and tarmac meeting whereas most of the English drivers could go home! Anyway at Mildenhall I picked up a sixth and a ninth in the heats but was again spun out in the final. "Skegness was wet! It poured throughout and my car misfired throughout the heats. The air filter was soaked. However, I got it sorted for the final and ended up in third place.

“We then moved to Cowdenbeath where we had the Superbowl on Saturday night. My qualifying heats were good and I started towards the front of the grid. Not long into the race I was shunted into the wall and the steelwork at the back of my car dropped down on to my tyre. This slowed me down and didn’t finish in the results. On the Sunday I did well in my heats - a 4th and a 5th – but was spun in the final and didn’t finish. The final round of the National Series was held at Ipswich and I had a strong finish to the series. Overall I was quite pleased with my performance but with a bit of luck could have ended up in third place.”

Asked about his plans for 2019 Ross informed me: “My main target is obviously the World Final and this year it is at the Racewall. "Over the past couple of seasons I haven’t had much luck – I broke a drive shaft two years ago when taking up my place on the grid and then blowing an engine last year. Hopefully luck will be on my side this year! "I will travel a bit but will definitely take in the Championship and World Ranking meetings. I am sitting in eleventh place just now as a result of poor results in the Scottish and failing to race in the British. I also lost a fair number of points doing the National Series where as I would have increased my total at the Racewall. If I can get into the top six on the World Final grid then I would certainly feel that I had a good chance of winning.

“Marnie and I, along with son Jaxson, have moved into a house at Windygates but the car is at my dad’s garage at Methil. We don’t have a lot to do to it to get it ready so I expect to be at the first practice meeting to try to get the handling sorted out as soon as I can.

“I get help working on the car from my dad, and Kevin Bowie although more mechanics turn up at the track to help. I have sponsorship from Ross Fernie Motors where I work as a MOT tester: The Auld House, Windygates; Taxi Centre, Leven; MPR Auto Electrics; J. F. Brown Haulage; J Building Suppliers and Luke Grief – stock car builder. Their help and assistance is invaluable and without it I wouldn’t be as competitive as I am.”

*The first practice session takes place this Sunday – February 17 – it is basically open to new drivers we can expect to see quite a few of the regular drivers appearing with their new cars. Practice for the Micro F2 drivers starts at 12 noon to 1.00pm and then runs until 4.00pm. Hopefully the weather will be dry and that there are plenty of cars.

Jim Turner